Owens widens rift with Ravens

Aside from harsh words, he involves players union in bid to fly with Eagles

Upshaw to ask for free agency

Ravens remain confident receiver will stay

Billick: `He's going to be a Raven'

March 07, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Although Ravens officials believe the addition of Terrell Owens still can develop into a viable marriage, the disgruntled receiver is still campaigning for a divorce.

In an interview late Friday night on ESPN, Owens said he is uncertain whether he'll join the Ravens and has stopped negotiating a new deal with the club. The four-time Pro Bowl player has repeatedly voiced his desire to play for the Philadelphia Eagles on his Web site and on national television since he was traded from the San Francisco 49ers to the Ravens for a second-round pick Thursday.

When asked whether he would report to the Ravens, Owens paused three seconds and said: "At this point, I can't say what I'm going to do. All I know is that I've talked to my agent earlier and we're going to file a grievance. We're just going to hope for the best possible situation.

"At this time, I'm going to be true to myself, my family and my agent. I'm not going to Baltimore and act like I'm happy to be there when I'm not."

The NFL Players Association plans to file a special-master case in the next few days to try to rescind Thursday's trade and have Owens declared a free agent, union chief Gene Upshaw told The Washington Post yesterday.

Upshaw said he intends to speak first to Harold Henderson, the league's executive vice president for labor relations. If they can't resolve the dispute, Upshaw said, the union will ask the special master, who is in charge of settling disputes regarding the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, to void the final three seasons of Owens' contract and allow him to negotiate with any team he chooses.

"We think, at this point, that's the only case we can file," Upshaw told the Post. "That's what we'll do the early part of next week."

If the union succeeds, the Ravens would get back the second-round pick and Owens would be an unrestricted free agent.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome told The Sun he was convinced the trade would stand against any grievance after speaking with the NFL Management Council.

If he remains a Raven, Owens will become an integral part in reviving the NFL's worst passing attack. Team officials have taken a tolerant approach with Owens, saying he has vented his anger at the situation and not at the Ravens.

Owens, 30, was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent before missing a deadline last month to void the final three seasons of his current deal. Then, after he believed he reached a long-term deal to set up being traded to the Eagles, he was dealt to the Ravens because they presented a better offer than Philadelphia (reportedly a fifth-round pick and receiver James Thrash).

"We understand the frustration on his part with the system," Ravens coach Brian Billick said yesterday. "We'll get our way through it. At the end of the day, he's going to be a Baltimore Raven. I hope what transpires from business purposes doesn't temper everyone's enthusiasm for what I think is going to be a big acquisition for us.

"I've kept at arm's length a little bit simply because it's a unique situation, and I think he will need some resolution from the league and the union before he can move on."

Owens likely will end up with a long-term contract similar to the one he wanted in Philadelphia. His deal with the Eagles reportedly included a signing bonus of $10 million and a yearly salary of more than $6 million. According to a league source, the Ravens' offers would be in that range.

Owens said his frustration is from not having the freedom to choose where he could play more so than the money.

"This is not [being done] in any way to undermine the Baltimore Ravens," he said. "I know they have a great thing going on there. At the same time, this is about me getting a fair shot at a team that I want to go to. I told Ozzie on the phone that Baltimore is definitely one of my choices, but Philly was my `A' choice and my priority on my list."

Owens said Ravens players and fans shouldn't take his discontent over the trade personally.

"I'm not trying to alienate or have any displeasure with all the Baltimore fans or teammates," Owens said. "My thing is to have a fair shot at free agency, which I really didn't have."

Although Ravens officials said they wished the trade could have gone smoother, they seem to believe this move will pan out.

"He's got a new chance for a new beginning here," Billick said. "Hopefully, because of this unique circumstance, he doesn't put himself in a position where he doesn't have an opportunity to take advantage of it."

In other free agency news, a league source confirmed the Ravens are among a handful of teams interested in defensive tackle Warren Sapp but said no deal is imminent.

At this point, the Ravens likely will wait until Sapp finds his market value. If the offers are in the Ravens' targeted range -- which presumably they will be -- the team would then actively pursue the seven-time Pro Bowl selection. His addition would serve as a substantial upgrade at right defensive end, where Marques Douglas started last year.

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